Egypt’s Ministry of International Cooperation has obtained $500m in finance during 2020, which has been used to support the country’s health sector as it battles the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
Of this amount, $400m has been provided by the World Bank to strengthen Egypt’s Universal Health Insurance System (UHIS). A further €30m has been provided by France with which to purchase medical and protective equipment, according to Minister of International Cooperation Rania Al-Mashat.
The minister’s remarks came during her participation in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Roundtable on Investment and Sustainable Development (RISD). The round table was set up to provide support for multilateral contributions to achieving the 2030 Agenda, and discuss the opportunities and risks associated with private investment in health-related industries.
Participants in the OECD event included senior government representatives from investment communities, international organisations, as well as business, labour and civil society. It also featured scholars from academia and think-tanks, including Ralf van de Beek, Deputy Head Trade Policy Department at the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Matthias Helble, expert in health, trade and investment policy at the Asia Development Bank.
Minister Al-Mashat noted that there is a global financing gap in the health sector. She pointed to the World Bank’s recent statements that the world’s 54 poorest countries will, in 2030, face an annual gap of $176bn in their ability to pay for essential health services. To fill this gap, the minister referred to the critical importance of public and private collaborations in providing healthcare services.
She highlighted Egypt’s commitment to invest in health, citing the establishment of the first Universal Health Insurance System (UHIS) to provide equal access to health care services for all. As part of this service, renovations are currently taking place in Luxor and South Sinai. Under the UHIS framework, 79 hospitals and 294 primary healthcare units will be developed in nine of the top priority governorates
Minister Al-Mashat noted that creating a cohesive environment for the private sector is integral to protecting the health and wellbeing of citizens. The Ministry of International Cooperation has been coordinating with International Financial Institutions (IFIs) to provide finance to Egypt’s private sector healthcare industry, such as Humania.
As part of this, Humania received a financing package worth a total of $108.5m in June 2020, to develop a network of high-quality hospitals in Egypt.
The minister added that Egypt’s investment in health can create a positive spill-over effect in Africa, and increase foreign direct investment (FDI) and private sector financing for health.
Manfred Schekulin, OECD Investment Committee Chairperson, highlighted the importance of cooperation with the private sector for improved health services. He added that it is time to move away from focusing on the sheer numbers of investment flows, and instead focus on the impact the investments gave had on society and improving human lives.